This indicator measures marine protected area (MPA) coverage at the EU and Member State levels and trends in this coverage over time. It considers MPAs reported as both Natura 2000 sites and nationally designated protected areas.
Methodology for data collection
The data for nationally designated protected areas are delivered by Eionet partnership countries as spatial and tabular information and are updated every year. For Natura 2000 MPAs, the European database of Natura 2000 sites is used. This consists of a compilation of the data submitted by the Member States of the European Union. This European database is generally updated once a year to take into account any changes at national level by Member States. However, the release of a new EU-wide database does not necessarily mean that a particular national data set has recently been updated. For total coverage of EU waters, protected areas designated under the Regional Sea Conventions namely the Barcelona Convention, the Helcom Convention and the OSPAR Convention, were also included, using the latest available data from the databases published under these conventions.
Methodology for indicator calculation
The ‘end2012’, ‘end2016 and ‘end2019’ MPA data (meaning the data reported in 2012, 2016 and 2019, respectively) were taken from the respective EEA and European Topic Centre on Inland, Coastal and Marine Water (ETC/ICM) report . These were combined with new data sets produced in 2022 based on the latest available data. An overview of the data sets used to support the analysis is provided in the ‘Data sources and providers’ section (Table 1).
The methodology and the procedure used for selecting marine Natura 2000 and nationally designated sites from the tabular and spatial data are outlined in detail in Section 2.6 of EEA (2015) and in Agnesi et al. (2017).
The spatial statistical analysis was carried out in ArcGIS. The calculations were automated by a series of procedures developed in the Python programming language. The conceptual basis of the analysis procedures can be found in Agnesi et al. (2017) and are therefore only briefly described here. The procedures included the creation of a feature class, for every protected area network, containing Natura 2000 and nationally designated MPAs for every Member State. The dissolve operation was used to calculate the surface coverage so as to exclude any overlap between sites. After obtaining the surface area per network, the overall surface of the combined networks was calculated through the union of the dissolved features of the different networks. Aroutine was written to assign the values of the distinct Natura 2000 and nationally designated sites and the overlapping portion of these networks. The surface area was extracted from each feature class and the percentage cover was obtained by relating the surface of protected area against that of the marine waters of each Member State.
The indicator is a headline indicator for monitoring progress towards the goals of the Eighth Environment Action Programme (8th EAP). It will contribute mainly to monitoring progress towards the 8th EAP biodiversity-related priority objective set out in Article 2(e), to be met by 2030: ‘protecting, preserving and restoring marine and terrestrial biodiversity and the biodiversity of inland waters inside and outside protected areas by, inter alia, halting and reversing biodiversity loss and improving the state of ecosystems and their functions and the services they provide, and by improving the state of the environment, in particular air, water and soil, as well as by combating desertification and soil degradation’. The European Commission’s communication on 8th EAP monitoring specifies that this indicator should monitor progress towards meeting the target to legally protect at least 30% of the EU’s sea area by 2030.
The EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 contains specific targets for protected areas to be delivered by 2030, including expanding the current network, in line with the following targets:
· to legally protect a minimum of 30% of the EU’s land area and 30% of the EU’s sea area and integrate ecological corridors, as part of a true trans-European nature network
· to strictly protect at least a third of the EU’s protected areas, including all remaining EU primary- and old-growth forests
· to effectively manage all protected areas, defining clear conservation objectives and measures, and monitor them appropriately.
This indicator directly tracks progress towards achieving the 30% target for protecting the EU’s seas. The indicator is used by several EU monitoring mechanisms, such as the EU biodiversity dashboard and for the EU’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) monitoring.
Other relevant EU policy instruments include the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).
At the global level, new targets for protected areas have recently been adopted as part of the Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework, including a target to effectively conserve and manage at least 30% of the world’s coastal and marine areas.
The selection of marine sites from databases containing both terrestrial and marine protected areas was carried out using different approaches for the Natura 2000 network and the nationally designated protected area data sets. While Natura 2000 site information declares the presence of marine habitats or species, this is not the case for the national designations; therefore, the latter sites were selected based on whether they were reported as having marine ecosystems or not.